The Unseen Watcher
close of Daniel's life great changes were taking place in the land to
which, over threescore years before, he and his Hebrew companions had been
carried captive. Nebuchadnezzar, "the terrible of the nations"
(Ezekiel 28:7), had died, and Babylon, "the praise of the whole
earth" (Jeremiah 51:41), had passed under the unwise rule of his
successors, and gradual but sure dissolution was resulting.
folly and weakness of Belshazzar, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, proud
Babylon was soon to fall. Admitted in his youth to a share in kingly
authority, Belshazzar gloried in his power and lifted up his heart against
the God of heaven. Many had been his opportunities to know the divine will
and to understand his responsibility of rendering obedience thereto. He
had known of his grandfather's banishment, by the decree of God, from the
society of men; and he was familiar with Nebuchadnezzar's conversion and
miraculous restoration. But Belshazzar
love of pleasure and self-glorification to efface the lessons that he
should never have forgotten. He wasted the opportunities graciously
granted him, and neglected to use the means within his reach for becoming
more fully acquainted with truth. That which Nebuchadnezzar had finally
gained at the cost of untold suffering and humiliation, Belshazzar passed
by with indifference.
It was not
long before reverses came. Babylon was besieged by Cyrus, nephew of Darius
the Mede, and commanding general of the combined armies of the Medes and
Persians. But within the seemingly impregnable fortress, with its massive
walls and its gates of brass, protected by the river Euphrates, and
stocked with provision in abundance, the voluptuous monarch felt safe and
passed his time in mirth and revelry.
In his pride
and arrogancy, with a reckless feeling of security Belshazzar "made a
great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the
thousand." All the attractions that wealth and power could command,
added splendor to the scene. Beautiful women with their enchantments were
among the guests in attendance at the royal banquet. Men of genius and
education were there. Princes and statesmen drank wine like water and
reveled under its maddening influence.
dethroned through shameless intoxication, and with lower impulses and
passions now in the ascendancy, the king himself took the lead in the
riotous orgy. As the feast progressed, he "commanded to bring the
golden and silver vessels which . . . Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of
which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his
concubines, might drink therein." The king would prove that nothing
was too sacred for his hands to handle. "They brought the golden
vessels; . . . and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his
concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold,
and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone."
Belshazzar think that there was a heavenly Witness to his idolatrous
revelry; that a divine Watcher, unrecognized, looked upon the scene of
profanation, heard the sacrilegious mirth, beheld the idolatry. But soon
the uninvited Guest made His presence felt. When the revelry was at its
height a bloodless hand came forth and traced upon the walls of the palace
characters that gleamed like fire--words which, though unknown to the vast
throng, were a portent of doom to the now conscience-stricken king and his
the boisterous mirth, while men and women, seized with nameless terror,
watched the hand slowly tracing the mysterious characters. Before them
passed, as in panoramic view, the deeds of their evil lives; they seemed
to be arraigned before the judgment bar of the eternal God, whose power
they had just defied. Where but a few moments before had been hilarity and
blasphemous witticism, were pallid faces and cries of fear. When God makes
men fear, they cannot hide the intensity of their terror.
was the most terrified of them all. He it was who above all others had
been responsible for the rebellion against God which that night had
reached its height in the Babylonian realm. In the presence of the
Watcher, the representative of Him whose power had been challenged and
whose name had been blasphemed, the king was paralyzed with fear.
Conscience was awakened. "The joints of his loins were loosed, and
his knees smote one against another." Belshazzar had impiously lifted
himself up against the God of heaven and had trusted in his own might, not
supposing that any would dare say, "Why doest thou thus?" but
now he realized that he must render an account of the stewardship
entrusted him, and that for his wasted opportunities and his defiant
attitude he could offer no excuse.
In vain the
king tried to read the burning letters. But here was a secret he could not
fathom, a power he could neither understand nor gainsay. In despair he
turned to the wise men of his realm for help. His wild cry rang out in the
assembly, calling upon the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers
to read the writing. "Whosoever shall read this writing," he
promised, "and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed
with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the
third ruler in the kingdom." But of no avail was his appeal to his
trusted advisers, with offers of rich awards. Heavenly wisdom cannot be
bought or sold. "All the king's wise men . . . could not read the
writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof." They
were no more able to read the mysterious characters than had been the wise
men of a former generation to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.
queen mother remembered Daniel, who, over half a century before, had made
known to King Nebuchadnezzar
the dream of
the great image and its interpretation. "O king, live forever,"
she said. "Let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance
be changed: there is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the
holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and
wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king
Nebuchadnezzar . . . made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans,
and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and
understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and
dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named
Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the
was Daniel brought in before the king." Making an effort to regain
his composure, Belshazzar said to the prophet: "Art thou that Daniel,
which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my
father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of
the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom
is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought
in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me
the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of
the thing: and I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations,
and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to
me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and
have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the
terror-stricken throng, Daniel, unmoved by the promises of the king, stood
in the quiet dignity of a servant of the Most High, not to speak words of
flattery, but to interpret a message of doom. "Let thy gifts be to
thyself," he said, "and give thy rewards to another; yet I will
read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the
first reminded Belshazzar of matters with which he was familiar, but which
had not taught him the lesson of humility that might have saved him. He
spoke of Nebuchadnezzar's sin and fall, and of the Lord's dealings with
him--the dominion and glory bestowed upon him, the divine judgment for his
pride, and his subsequent acknowledgment of the power and mercy of the God
of Israel; and then in bold and emphatic words he rebuked Belshazzar for
his great wickedness. He held the king's sin up before him, showing him
the lessons he might have learned but did not. Belshazzar had not read
aright the experience of his grandfather, nor heeded the warning of events
so significant to himself. The opportunity of knowing and obeying the true
God had been given him, but had not been taken to heart, and he was about
to reap the consequence of his rebellion.
. . O Belshazzar," the prophet declared, "hast not humbled thine
heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against
the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before
thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk
wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of
brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the
God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose
are all thy
ways, hast thou not glorified: then was the part of the hand set from Him;
and this writing was written."
the Heaven-sent message on the wall, the prophet read, "Mene, Mene,
Tekel, Upharsin." The hand that had traced the characters was no
longer visible, but these four words were still gleaming forth with
terrible distinctness; and now with bated breath the people listened while
the aged prophet declared:
the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and
finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found
wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and
In that last
night of mad folly, Belshazzar and his lords had filled up the measure of
their guilt and the guilt of the Chaldean kingdom. No longer could God's
restraining hand ward off the impending evil. Through manifold
providences, God had sought to teach them reverence for His law. "We
would have healed Babylon," He declared of those whose judgment was
now reaching unto heaven, "but she is not healed." Jeremiah
51:9. Because of the strange perversity of the human heart, God had at
last found it necessary to pass the irrevocable sentence. Belshazzar was
to fall, and his kingdom was to pass into other hands.
prophet ceased speaking, the king commanded that he be awarded the
promised honors; and in harmony with this, "they clothed Daniel with
scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation
concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom."
More than a
century before, Inspiration had foretold that "the night of . . .
pleasure" during which king and counselors would vie with one another
in blasphemy against God, would suddenly be changed into a season of fear
and destruction. And now, in rapid succession, momentous events followed
one another exactly as had been portrayed in the prophetic scriptures
years before the principals in the drama had been born.
in the festal hall, surrounded by those whose doom has been sealed, the
king is informed by a messenger that "his city is taken" by the
enemy against whose devices he had felt so secure; "that the passages
are stopped, . . . and the men of war are affrighted." Verses 31, 32.
Even while he and his nobles were drinking from the sacred vessels of
Jehovah, and praising their gods of silver and of gold, the Medes and the
Persians, having turned the Euphrates out of its channel, were marching
into the heart of the unguarded city. The army of Cyrus now stood under
the walls of the palace; the city was filled with the soldiers of the
enemy, "as with caterpillars" (verse 14); and their triumphant
shouts could be heard above the despairing cries of the astonished
night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain," and an alien
monarch sat upon the throne.
the Hebrew prophets spoken concerning the manner in which Babylon should
fall. As in vision God had revealed to them the events of the future, they
had exclaimed: "How is Sheshach taken! and how is the praise of the
whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an astonishment among the
nations!" "How is the hammer of the whole
asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the
nations!" "At the noise of the taking of Babylon the earth is
moved, and the cry is heard among the nations."
is suddenly fallen and destroyed." "The spoiler is come upon
her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are taken, every one of their
bows is broken: for the Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite. And
I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her
rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and
not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts."
laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and thou wast
not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast striven
against the Lord. The Lord hath opened His armory, and hath brought forth
the weapons of His indignation: for this is the work of the Lord God of
hosts in the land of the Chaldeans."
saith the Lord of hosts; The children of Israel and the children of Judah
were oppressed together: and all that took them captives held them fast;
they refused to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the Lord of hosts
is His name: He shall throughly plead their cause, that He may give rest
to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon." Jeremiah
51:41; 50:23, 46; 51:8, 56, 57; 50:24, 25, 33, 34.
"the broad walls of Babylon" became "utterly broken, and
her high gates. . . burned with fire." Thus did Jehovah of hosts
"cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease," and lay low
"the haughtiness of the terrible." Thus
"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees'
excellency," become as Sodom and Gomorrah-- a place forever accursed.
"It shall never be inhabited," Inspiration has declared,
"neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither
shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their
fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their
houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and
satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in
their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces."
"I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of
water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord
of hosts." Jeremiah 51:58; Isaiah 13:11, 19-22; 14:23.
To the last
ruler of Babylon, as in type to its first, had come the sentence of the
divine Watcher: "O king, . . . to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is
departed from thee." Daniel 4:31.
down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of
Sit on the
ground: there is no throne. . . .
And get thee
into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans:
shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.
wroth with My people,
polluted Mine inheritance, and given them into
show them no mercy; . . .
thou saidst, I shall be a lady forever:
So that thou
didst not lay these things to thy heart,
remember the latter end of it.
hear now this,
Thou that art
given to pleasures
in thine heart,
I am, and
none else beside me;
I shall not
sit as a widow,
I know the loss of children: . . .
two things shall come to thee in a moment in
The loss of
children, and widowhood:
come upon thee in their perfection for the
thy sorceries, and for the great
For thou hast
trusted in thy wickedness:
said, None seeth me.
wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
And thou hast
said in thine heart,
I am, and
none else beside me.
shall evil come upon thee;
not know from whence it riseth:
shall fall upon thee;
not be able to put it off:
desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which
now with thine enchantments, and with the
thy sorceries, wherein thou hast
If so be thou
shalt be able to profit,
If so be thou
art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.
Let now the
astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators,
Stand up, and
save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
shall be as stubble; . . .
not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: . . .
save thee." Isaiah 47:1-15.
that has come upon the stage of action has been permitted to occupy its
place on the earth, that the fact might be determined whether it would
fulfill the purposes of the Watcher and the Holy One. Prophecy has traced
the rise and progress of the world's great empires--Babylon, Medo-Persia,
Greece, and Rome. With each of these, as with the nations of less power,
history has repeated itself. Each has had its period of test; each has
failed, its glory faded, its power departed.
have rejected God's principles, and in this rejection have wrought their
own ruin, yet a divine, overruling purpose has manifestly been at work
throughout the ages. It was this that the prophet Ezekiel saw in the
wonderful representation given him during his exile in the land of the
Chaldeans, when before his astonished gaze were portrayed the symbols that
revealed an overruling Power that has to do with the affairs of earthly
banks of the river Chebar, Ezekiel beheld a whirlwind seeming to come from
the north, "a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a
brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of
amber." A number of wheels intersecting one another were moved by
four living beings. High above all these "was the likeness of a
throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of
the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon
it." "And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's
hand under their wings." Ezekiel 1:4, 26; 10:8. The wheels were so
complicated in arrangement that at first sight they appeared to be in
confusion; yet they moved in perfect harmony. Heavenly beings,
guided by the hand beneath the wings of the cherubim, were impelling those
wheels; above them, upon the sapphire throne, was the Eternal One; and
round about the throne was a rainbow, the emblem of divine mercy.
wheellike complications were under the guidance of the hand beneath the
wings of the cherubim, so the complicated play of human events is under
divine control. Amidst the strife and tumult of nations He that sitteth
above the cherubim still guides the affairs of this earth.
of nations speaks to us today. To every nation and to every individual God
has assigned a place in His great plan. Today men and nations are being
tested by the plummet in the hand of Him who makes no mistake. All are by
their own choice deciding their destiny, and God is overruling all for the
accomplishment of His purposes.
prophecies which the great I AM has given in His word, uniting link after
link in the chain of events, from eternity in the past to eternity in the
future, tell us where we are today in the procession of the ages and what
may be expected in the time to come. All that prophecy has foretold as
coming to pass, until the present time, has been traced on the pages of
history, and we may be assured that all which is yet to come will be
fulfilled in its order.
signs of the times declare that we are standing on the threshold of great
and solemn events. Everything in our world is in agitation. Before our
eyes is fulfilling the Saviour's prophecy of the events to precede His
coming: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . Nation shall
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers
places." Matthew 24:6, 7.
is a time of overwhelming interest to all living. Rulers and statesmen,
men who occupy positions of trust and authority, thinking men and women of
all classes, have their attention fixed upon the events taking place about
us. They are watching the relations that exist among the nations. They
observe the intensity that is taking possession of every earthly element,
and they recognize that something great and decisive is about to take
place--that the world is on the verge of a stupendous crisis.
and the Bible only, gives a correct view of these things. Here are
revealed the great final scenes in the history of our world, events that
already are casting their shadows before, the sound of their approach
causing the earth to tremble and men's hearts to fail them for fear.
the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it
upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof; . . . because
they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the
everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and
they that dwell therein are desolate." Isaiah 24:1-6.
for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from
the Almighty shall it come. . . . The seed is rotten under their clods,
the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is
withered. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed,
because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made
desolate." The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth;
pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the
trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the
sons of men." Joel 1:15-18, 12.
pained at my very heart; . . . I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast
heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction
upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled." Jeremiah
for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of
Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." Jeremiah 30:7.
thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge,
Even the Most
High, thy habitation;
no evil befall thee,
any plague come nigh thy dwelling."
daughter of Zion, . . . the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine
enemies. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let
her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the
thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His counsel." Micah
4:10-12. God will not fail His church in the hour of her greatest peril.
He has promised deliverance. "I will bring again the captivity of
Jacob's tents," He has declared, "and have mercy on his dwelling
places." Jeremiah 30:18.
Then will the
purpose of God be fulfilled; the principles of His kingdom will be honored
by all beneath the sun.